Huelskamp not chastened by close election

huelskamp,timAfter not having been endorsed by the state’s largest agriculture organizations, and after a virtually unknown opponent won 45 percent of the vote in the GOP primary Tuesday, you might think that U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, would be a little chastened. You might think he would commit himself to becoming a productive member of Congress. But no. Huelskamp lashed out Wednesday against “a shadowy, out-of-state super PAC” that smeared his reputation, and said that he “will not be bullied.” That’s been Huelskamp’s pattern: Blame others for his own failings, then double down on those failings.

Open judicial selection process welcome, endangered

justiceladyThis week’s vetting of 13 applicants for the Kansas Supreme Court stood out for its welcome transparency, including a public audience and even live-tweeting of the interviews by some observers. And the three finalists recommended to Gov. Sam Brownback by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission all seem well-qualified – Kansas Court of Appeals Judges Karen Arnold-Burger and Caleb Stegall and 5th Judicial District Chief Judge Merlin Wheeler. But it could be the last such exercise of open government in Kansas if a re-elected Brownback and conservative Legislature again pursue a constitutional amendment to junk the nonpartisan commission in favor of letting the governor do his own picking, subject to a Senate vote. That would be a bad move. Before Brownback chose Stegall, an administration attorney, for the appeals court last summer, exercising his new unilateral selection power for that court, the governor released no names of applicants or finalists and the vetting was done behind closed doors. What Brownback sold to legislators as a remedy for the supposedly secretive, undemocratic nominating commission system turned out to be more secretive as well as partisan.

Chamber, AFP failed to purge more moderates

middleroadThis time, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity-Kansas failed to purge state lawmakers who wouldn’t toe their line. The groups targeted about half a dozen lawmakers who didn’t support attempts to repeal the state’s renewable energy standards. All of the lawmakers won their primaries Tuesday. “I was No. 1 on their hit list,” Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin, told the Kansas Health Institute News Service. “But I stood my ground for the people of my district, and they got it.” In the 2012 primaries, the Koch-backed groups were successful in defeating several GOP moderates. Jennings thinks voters may have “some buyers’ remorse about what happened two years ago.”

Election went more smoothly, but turnout disappointing

votingaug14It’s concerning that some Wichita voters showed up at the wrong polling places Tuesday and said they were never informed that their voting locations had changed. Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman must do a much better job of alerting people to poll changes before the November election – as she has pledged to do. But Tuesday’s election didn’t have the processing problems that delayed and distorted results during the 2012 elections. That’s a relief. What’s most disappointing about the election is the low turnout. Only 18.7 percent of registered voters in Sedgwick County voted in the primary, down from 25.6 percent in the 2010 primary. In one area House race, fewer than 400 people voted.

Wall Street Journal editorial asked Kansas ‘to ignore the bad stuff’

emptypocketA recent Wall Street Journal editorial defended Gov. Sam Brownback’s economic policies and claimed that liberals are afraid that other states will follow the tax-cutting trend. “Are they kidding?” asked former state budget director Duane Goossen. He wrote that the editorial “asks Kansans to look away, to wait longer, to ignore the bad stuff … suggesting all the while that it’s not really so very worrisome. But it is.” Rather than being worried that the tax cuts will succeed, Goossen said, “here in Kansas, we are worried that the state will face a long, long recovery from the fallout from the 2012 tax policy.”

Avoid more tragedies by securing loads

fatalaccidentHow tragic that 61-year-old Larry W. Dobbs, a former Winfield police chief, lost his life Monday while trying to do the good deed of picking up Sheetrock that had flown off the back of another person’s pickup truck on K-96, where Dobbs was struck by a semi truck. As the community keeps Dobbs’ family in its thoughts and prayers, the incident underscores how crucial it is for drivers to secure whatever they are hauling in their trucks or trailers so that roadways are clear of debris.

Long-term federal debt forecast is frightening

BudgetDeficitThe declining federal budget deficit is encouraging, but long-term forecasts show spending mushrooming to unsustainable levels. A report released recently by the Congressional Budget Office projects debt rising continuously after 2017. Assuming that policymakers allow temporary spending and tax-cut provisions to expire and do not further increase deficits (which is highly unlikely), debt will rise from 74 percent of gross domestic product in 2014 to 108 percent by 2040, 147 percent by 2060, and 212 percent by 2085, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget noted. If policymakers don’t act responsibly (which is much more likely), debt could increase to 170 percent of GDP by 2040 and keep climbing. An aging population, rising health care costs and rising interest payments are driving the debt projections. “There are no gimmicks to get around the demographics,” warned Robert L. Bixby, executive director on the nonpartisan Concord Coalition.

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

SPOOFSLOGOThe following satirical headlines come from borowitzreport.com and theonion.com:

Furious at Being Called Crazies, Republicans Sue President

Congress Blocks Obama’s Attempt to Order New Office Supplies

ExxonMobil, Chevron Locked in Bidding War to Acquire Lucrative Pennsylvania Senator

Hillary Clinton Spends Busy Day Fueling Speculation, Not Ruling Things Out

New Study Finds Running for 20 Minutes Each Day Could Add Years of Soreness to Life

ALEC now has offshoot focused on cities, counties

notaxes“The corporate lobbying network American Legislative Exchange Council, commonly known as ALEC, is seeking to extend its brand of aggressive privatization and tax cuts to the local level,” the Guardian newspaper reported. While ALEC is focused at the state level, the new offshoot organization, the American City County Exchange, will be focused on cities and counties. Here is a hint that the organizations will share the same goals: Seminar topics at the ACCE convention last week in Dallas included privatization and “releasing local governments from the grip of collective bargaining.”

Would-be tax cutters watching Kansas’ experiment

tax-calculatorReacting to New York Times and other national commentary declaring Kansas’ income tax cuts a failure, a Republican in New York’s State Assembly fretted to Reason.com’s Ira Stoll that the left “will use this Kansas example against every governor who tries to reduce taxes if there is no push-back now.” Stoll said “the Kansas experiment is still in progress,” with more tax cuts scheduled, concluding: “The measure of the success or failure of these tax cuts shouldn’t just be the effect they have on the bottom line of the Kansas state budget. The measure should be the effect they have on the budgets of the individuals, families and businesses that are residents of Kansas.” Responding to a commentary in the Telegraph headlined, “Why Britain should follow the yellow brick road to Kansas and cut taxes,” an online British post concluded: “When a choice has to be made, we should go with the straight and narrow path of paying our way in the world, not the yellow brick road of debt-funded tax cuts.”

Kansas gets ‘woodwork effect’ but no federal funds

Doctor Speaking with PatientOpponents of allowing a federal expansion of Medicaid in Kansas argue that, even though the federal government would pay the full cost of expansion for the first three years, it would increase state costs. One of the main reasons for that is the “woodwork effect,” in which publicity and outreach about expansion would draw out people who were already eligible for Medicaid or other programs but hadn’t signed up. But that happened anyway. The number of people on KanCare – the state’s privatized Medicaid program – increased about 7.5 percent, from 396,374 people in April 2013 to 426,360 this past April. State officials attribute the increase to the woodwork effect caused by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act nationwide. So Kansas has higher costs but no federal money for expanding Medicaid, estimated at about $820 million over the next three years. That’s a lose-lose for the state budget.

So they said

brownbackhandout“I don’t know anybody who hires a new coach or CEO and says, ‘Go ahead and keep managing the slow decline. Just don’t make it hurt too much.’ They hire someone to get it going the right way, and that’s what we’re doing.” – Gov. Sam Brownback (in photo), talking fiscal strategy in the Los Angeles Times

“I wish I could take that back, because I don’t consider this an experiment. So many people on the left really want this to fail.” – Brownback again, in a Washington Post article about what he had called Kansas’ “real live experiment”

“This effort to starve state government is now pressuring school governments, and the social service agencies are having a much tougher time. It just seems that he has this objective without understanding the consequences or caring about the consequences.” – Reno County Commissioner Brad Dillon, a former Brownback supporter now backing Paul Davis, also in the Post article

“What do guns have to do with the (insurance) department?” – Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, in the Topeka Capital-Journal, about the “100 percent pro-gun” language turning up in ads of GOP candidates vying to replace her

Tax-collection news good, but shortfall still looming

taxrevenueIt’s a relief that the state’s tax collections for July came in on target, breaking a three-month streak of big shortfalls. The state collected $408.6 million in taxes last month, which was $1.6 million, or 0.4 percent, more than estimated. Over the three previous months the state had collected $334 million less than expected. Though the turnaround is good news, the state is still facing major budget problems. Even if tax revenues over the next 11 months meet the estimates, the state will use up nearly all of its cash reserves this fiscal year and will face a large budget shortfall next fiscal year.

Beware of last-minute campaign mailers, ads

mud.jpbHeading into the final weekend before Tuesday’s primary, voters should beware of last-minute mailers and ads attacking political candidates. Such claims usually are misleading and exaggerated. The worst offenders often aren’t the opposing candidates but third-party groups. For example, Americans for Prosperity-Kansas – a critic of public education and education funding – has been attacking some pro-education lawmakers for not voting last session for a school funding bill (that also eliminated state-mandated due-process rights for teachers and granted tax credits for business donations to private schools). Mailers proclaim that “when our schools needed a lifeline,” the lawmakers voted “no.” The cynicism and hypocrisy are stunning. Political action committees also have launched new TV ads attacking congressional candidates, including Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita.

Kansas governor’s race now considered toss-up

bbackoathAfter looking at the latest polling and campaign finance disclosures in Kansas’ gubernatorial contest, Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics shifted it from “leans Republican to toss-up” this week. It concluded: “Kansas is so Republican that we won’t be surprised if this one teeter-totters back in (Gov. Sam) Brownback’s direction – but the governor has a lot of fence-mending to do, and quickly.”

Laffer said tax cuts would have ‘near immediate’ impact

lafferIt wasn’t only Gov. Sam Brownback who thought that lowering the state’s income taxes would act “like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.” Economist Arthur Laffer (in photo), who consulted on Kansas’ tax plan, made a similar prediction. A 2012 report he wrote with Stephen Moore, who is now the top economist with the Heritage Foundation, argued: “The quality of schools also matters as does the state’s highway system, but it takes years for those policies to pay dividends, while cutting taxes can have a near immediate and permanent impact, which is why we have advised Oklahoma, Kansas and other states to cut their income tax rates if they want the most effective immediate and lasting boost to their states’ economies.”

Liberals afraid of ‘what’s right with Kansas’?

capitoldomeThe Wall Street Journal editorial board defended Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax-cut policies in an editorial Wednesday headlined, “Why liberals hate Kansas.” “The truth is that it’s too soon to draw grand conclusions about the tax cuts, which have been in effect for all of 19 months,” the editorial said. “But some early economic indicators suggest they may be producing modest positive effects.” The problem is that those modest effects aren’t keeping up with the loss of tax revenue, and the state is quickly headed for large budget shortfalls. The editorial concluded that liberals are trying to stop the tax-cutting trend from spreading by predicting catastrophe. “They’re afraid people may soon be asking what’s right with Kansas,” the editorial said. But a Wall Street Journal news article last month reported that, so far, the results of Brownback’s tax cuts “are serving as more of a warning than a beacon.”

Lawrence unveils expanded library; Wichita waits

libraryLawrence residents are thrilled with their newly expanded and renovated public library, which had its grand opening last weekend. The library’s many features include a recording studio, video-editing bays, a performance auditorium, conference rooms and a coffee shop. It also has a “teen zone” that includes large-screen TVs and video game systems. Meanwhile, Wichita’s plan for a new, modern downtown facility to replace the 47-year-old Central Library (in photo) keeps being put off and scaled back. Maybe Wichita City Council members should take a field trip to Lawrence.

Colyer tries to fool Kansans twice

colyerIt’s hard to believe that Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer tried the same trick twice. On New Year’s Eve last year, the last day of the campaign finance reporting period, Colyer loaned the Brownback campaign $500,000 – the largest campaign loan in state history. Several days later, reporters asked Colyer and Gov. Sam Brownback about the loan, which looked suspiciously like it was aimed at inflating the campaign’s fundraising total to match the fundraising of the Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis. Colyer told the Lawrence Journal-World that the loan represented his commitment to making a better future for Kansas kids. Brownback told the Kansas City Star that the loan would allow him to take his message to voters this winter and spring. Neither of them disclosed that the campaign had already repaid Colyer for the loan, on Jan. 2. Now, Colyer has done it again. On July 23, a day before the latest reporting period ended, Colyer again loaned the campaign $500,000. And again, the campaign claimed that the loan was merely a sign of Colyer’s commitment to the campaign.

Pompeo and Tiahrt both pandering on impeachment

ObamaIn their testy Sunday debate on KNSS Radio 1330-AM, both Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, and former Rep. Todd Tiahrt said they would vote to impeach President Obama (in photo). “If such a bill were introduced, I would,” Pompeo said, jumping into a criticism of the “absolute overreach” of the administration. Tiahrt said Obama “had broken the law” and he also proudly declared: “I’ve already voted to impeach Bill Clinton on all four counts.” Saying they’d vote to impeach Obama is like a future juror declaring someone guilty even before charges are filed, testimony is heard and jury deliberations are held. Shouldn’t they be above such right-wing pandering?

Kansas losing out by not expanding Medicaid

healthcaregovHow much is Kansas losing out by not allowing a federal expansion of Medicaid? About $820 million over the next three years, according to a study by the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Kansas is also losing out on 3,800 new jobs over the three-year span. And up to 100,000 low-income Kansans are losing out on needed health insurance. Expansion also would save the state money by moving some adults the state now cares for, such as those with mental illnesses, onto Medicaid and by reducing other costs. But neither the financial nor moral arguments for expansion seem to matter to Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature.

Why big difference in gubernatorial polls?

thumbsupdownA new poll from the research firm YouGov, in partnership with the New York Times and CBS News, has Gov. Sam Brownback ahead of his Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, by 10 points, 47 to 37 percent. Yet SurveyUSA polls, sponsored by KSN, Channel 3, have consistently shown Davis ahead, including one released last week that had Davis up 8 points, 48 to 40 percent. How could there be such a big difference? The YouGov poll is using a new sampling method based on an online panel, while SurveyUSA uses the traditional method of random telephone surveys. The non-probability online panel is controversial, and it tends to underrepresent minorities (only 4.4 percent in the Kansas poll). Ultimately, the only polling that matters is what happens in the voting booth.

Age split in polling on governor’s race

brownbackhandPaul Davis, Democratic candidate for Kansas governor.  2014One might suspect that younger adults would be the age group least supportive of Gov. Sam Brownback’s (left) re-election, given his stance on gay marriage and other social issues. But a new SurveyUSA poll, sponsored by KSN, Channel 3, shows younger voters as Brownback’s biggest backers. Though he trails Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis (right) by 8 points overall, 40 to 48 percent, Brownback leads by 15 points with voters younger than age 35. Brownback also has a 4-point lead with 35- through 49-year-olds. Davis leads by 13 points with 50- through 64-year-olds and by 20 points with those 65 and older. Also of note: Davis’ lead in the Wichita area is 7 points, nearly identical to the statewide results. Davis leads by 15 points with women and by 2 points with men. And on the issue of education, Davis leads by a whopping 58 points, 76 to 18 percent.

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

SPOOFSLOGOThe following satirical headlines come from borowitzreport.com and theonion.com:

Rick Perry Orders Dallas Cowboys to Mexican Border

Boehner Drops Obama Lawsuit; Says It Would Mean Doing Something

New Anti-Abortion Legislation Requires Doctors to Scale 18-Foot Wall Surrounding Clinic

Study Finds High School Students Retain Only One-Third of Obsolete Curriculum Over Summer

Royal Baby’s First Year Widely Considered Disappointing

So they said

brownbackofficialmug“It’s law. It’s going to happen.” – Gov. Sam Brownback (in photo), saying he opposes the proposal of his Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, to postpone additional scheduled state income tax cuts

“Western Kansas sees it as not real Kansas.” – Kansas Republican Party executive director Clay Barker, to the Hill newspaper, about Johnson County, home to U.S. Senate candidate Milton Wolf

“Rolling into Dodge City. I wonder if there are any recliners for rent.” – Wolf, tweeting a dig at Sen. Pat Roberts’ February statement that he has “full access to the recliner” at the home of some Dodge City donors

“They’re a bunch of humorless has-beens who don’t like being outed as Democrats.” – Rep. J.R. Claeys, R-Salina, in the Salina Journal, doubling down on his recent tweet that Democrat Paul Davis’ gubernatorial campaign “really raided the nursing home” to find the Republicans endorsing him